Archive for the ‘Zardari’ Category

Pakistan: President Diminished, Rival Triumphant

March 16, 2009

The promised reinstatement of Pakistan‘s chief justice defused a protest movement threatening the U.S.-allied government, but it could still spell trouble for the country’s struggling president.

The army is said to have directed President Asif Ali Zardari to defuse the developing showdown with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and lawyers leading a column of protesters toward the capital Sunday night.

But by yielding to demands to restore judges fired by former military ruler and U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf, Zardari may have strengthened democracy in the nuclear-armed nation as it faces daunting security and economic challenges.

“Never before in Pakistan’s political history have you had people standing up for the rule of law, for the constitution,” said Nasim Zehra, a political and defense analyst. “Civil society has won out.”

Musharraf ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry in 2007 after he blocked a privatization deal, investigated the fate of hundreds of people allegedly held incognito by security agencies, and even questioned the legality of the ex-general’s rule.

But the move backfired as lawyers, rights activists, liberal media pundits — as well as the general’s political opponents — mounted a dogged campaign for an independent judiciary that turned the dour, mustachioed judge into an unlikely democratic icon.

The very same constellation has now humbled Zardari.

The slaying of former premier Benazir Bhutto catapulted her Pakistan People’s Party into power last year. Zardari, who took over his wife’s party and became president, forged a coalition with Sharif. The alliance collapsed as the two wrangled for power and Zardari reneged on a pledge to restore Chaudhry.

Sharif joined the opposition, but last month the Supreme Court ruled that he and his brother Shahbaz were inelegible for elected office. Zardari then dismissed the government Shahbaz led in Punjab, the most powerful Pakistani province.

Nawaz Sharif — who defied house arrest to participate in Sunday’s demonstration — accused Zardari of a power grab and urged his supporters to join lawyers and other activists planning to march on the capital, re-energizing the movement.

Zardari’s tough line also opened rifts in his party, which could weaken his grip and force him to pass on to Parliament some of the sweeping presidential powers accumulated by Musharraf, analysts said. He has pledged to give up the right to dissolve the assemblies and fire the government — but taken no concrete steps to do it.

“Zardari has come out badly bruised,” said Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani commentator. “He has managed to survive, but his power has certainly been curtailed.”

Sharif, in contrast, has emerged triumphant.

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Pakistan Military Chief Pushes President to Yield to Demonstrators’ Demands

March 14, 2009

With fears of unrest spreading in Pakistan, the nation’s powerful military chief personally interceded in an effort to persuade President Asif Ali Zardari to yield to key opposition demands and end the deepening crisis, Pakistani officials said.

The Wall Street Journal

It was the first time since the restoration of democracy more than a year ago that the military — which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 61-year history — has taken such a direct role in what are considered civilian affairs. The move by military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani came amid a third day of antigovernment protests that the government has sought to damp by arresting hundreds of opposition activists and banning demonstrations.

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Pakistan: Circling The Drain?

March 12, 2009

Pakistan is key to America’s efforts to end global terrorism — and to prevent acts like September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York and the Pentagon.

Pakistan harbors terrorists: maybe even Osama bin Laden.  Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

And Pakistan may be circling the drain.


By Imtiaz Shah

Hundreds of black-suited Pakistani lawyers and flag-waving opposition activists launched a cross-country protest on Thursday, as the year-old civilian coalition government scrambled for ways to avert a showdown.

The movement for an independent judiciary could destabilize President Asif Ali Zardari’s government at a time when the nuclear-armed U.S. ally faces severe problems from Islamist militants and a sinking economy.

Police detained hundreds of political activists on Wednesday, and banned rallies. But Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said on Thursday the so-called long march that set out from the cities of Karachi and Quetta would be allowed to go ahead.

“We’ll not stop them, but if someone tries to take the law in his hand I must say in the house that he won’t be allowed,” Malik told the National Assembly.

“This is a war for power and rule and unless we get out of this sphere, such things will keep on happening.”

Opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has thrown his weight behind the lawyers, putting him into open confrontation with Zardari.

Infuriated by a Supreme Court ruling barring him and his brother from elected office, and by Zardari ejecting his party from power in Punjab province and imposing central rule, Sharif has called the protest a defining moment for Pakistan.

Pakistani lawyers and members of civil rights movement march ... 
Pakistani lawyers and members of civil rights movement march along a street as they take part in a demonstration in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, March 12, 2009. Protesters vowed Thursday to press ahead with a major march onto Pakistan’s parliament in defiance of bans and hundreds of arrests by a government that has come increasingly under fire from its critics. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Stoking tension in a country with a grim record of assassinations, a spokesman for Sharif said the government had “hatched a plot” to kill him.

Zardari’s spokesman dismissed that as “political gimmickry” and said the Sharif bothers had been promised full security.

Pakistan is vital to U.S. efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan and defeat al Qaeda. The United States wants Pakistan to focus on fighting militancy rather than on political power plays.

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Pakistan Against Terror: “deliberately not taking action or incapable”

January 28, 2009

Before America pumps a lot more money into Pakistan to fight terrorism, we Americans might consider the words of India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the issue of anti-terror action by Pakistan:

“Yes, one way you can make a differentiation that they are deliberately not doing or are incapable of doing. But as far as  India is concerned, the net impact is the same … the perpetrators are launching terror attacks from the territory of Pakistan,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.

“The infrastructural facilities there (are) used by them (for) committing crimes in India, not necessarily in this case but in a large number of cases in the past,” he said in an interview with Al Jazeera news channel.

Mukherjee said India expects the Pakistan government to act against the perpetrators of terror acts operating from Pakistani soil.

“We expect Pakistan to act. Whatever is to be done from our side we are doing so … but Pakistan has to act because the handlers and planners (of  Mumbai attacks) were from Pakistan,” he said.


Pakistan Resisting Terror War But Wants U.S. Funding
 Pakistan Hopes Obama Can Deliver Even Part of the Bush-Cheney Love (and Money)
Pakistan’s President Continues Audition for Obama Attention, Funding, Support
Pakistan Auditions For “New Start” in U.S. Policy, Funding From President Obama on CNN

Pakistan Resisting Terror War But Wants U.S. Funding

January 28, 2009

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has called on the United States to halt its drone attacks against al Qaeda and Taliban fighters on Pakistani soil and warned that the missile strikes were fuelling militarism in the country’s troubled tribal border region.

This comes amid what appears to be a media blitz by Pakistan’s President Zardari and former President Musharraf to get more funding for Pakistan from the U.S.  Both men say Pakistan has been the number one ally of the U.S. in the anti-terror fight.



From AFP

Pakistan on Wednesday hit back against US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, saying US missile strikes inside its borders were “counter-productive” to anti-terrorism efforts.

“Our policy remains unchanged and we believe drone strikes are counter-productive,” foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told AFP.

He was speaking in response to a statement from Gates that the United States would “go after Al-Qaeda wherever Al-Qaeda is” and affirming that the new US administration’s position had been transmitted to the Pakistani government.

“Both President (George W.) Bush and President (Barack) Obama have made clear we will go after Al-Qaeda wherever Al-Qaeda is, and we will continue to pursue that,” Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
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 Pakistan Hopes Obama Can Deliver Even Part of the Bush-Cheney Love (and Money)
Pakistan’s President Continues Audition for Obama Attention, Funding, Support
Pakistan Auditions For “New Start” in U.S. Policy, Funding From President Obama on CNN

An unmanned Predator drone. A suspected US missile strike Friday ... 
An unmanned Predator drone.(AFP/File/US Air Force)

Pakistan Auditions For “New Start” in U.S. Policy, Funding From President Obama on CNN

January 24, 2009

Pakistan has been the staunchest ally of the United States in the war against terror, President George W. Bush often told us, to say nothing of Vice President Cheney’s unprecidented support for the South Asian nuclear power.

Yet Pakistan was never able to find in itself the courage to pick one side or the other: democracy and the United States or Islam and the Taliban.  Anti-terror or terror.

Because Pakistan refused for most of the Bush Administration to use its army to root out the Taliban and al-Qaeda (maybe even Osama bin Laden himself) from the tribal areas near Afganistan, the U.S. started raining down death on terror leaders iside Pakistan from predator drones armed with missiles.

Countless terror leaders were killed.

An unmanned Predator drone. A suspected US missile strike Friday ... 
An unmanned Predator drone. A suspected US missile strike Friday killed at least three foreign militants in the northwest Pakistan stronghold of a local Taliban commander, a senior security official said.(AFP/File/US Air Force)

Pakistan was torn further internally by its number one ally and benefactor, the U.S., ignoring preas from its government to stop violating its sovereign borders — from the air.  Pakistan even mustered its Air Force to the tribal areas in attempts to find and destroy the U.S. drones — with little consequence.

Now Pakistan has a new Government headed by Mr. Zardari and Mr. Gilani.  Musharraf is out.  And India along with much of the world believes that Pakistan had some hand in the terror attack in Mumbai.

Re-enter Musharraf:

“Pakistan is being treated so unequally while we are the ones who are in the lead role fighting the global war on terror,” said Pervez Musharraf, interviewed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer for “The Situation Room.”

“This is what hurts Pakistan. It hurts the leadership. Indeed, it hurts the government. It hurts the people of Pakistan,” said Musharraf, speaking from Dallas, Texas, during a book tour in the United States.

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says anti-American sentiment in Pakistan is high.

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says anti-American sentiment in Pakistan is high.

“Nobody in Pakistan is comfortable with the strikes across the border. There is no doubt in that. Public opinion is very much against it,” he said. “But as far as this issue of the new president — President Obama having taken over and this continuing — but I have always been saying that policies don’t change with personalities; policies have national interest, and policies depend on an environment.

“So the environment and national interest of the United States being the same, I thought policies will remain constant,” he said.

Musharraf seems to be making a plea to President Obama, who has claimed a “new way” in the Middle East and with Iran, that Pakistan too deserves a new lease on life — and American wealth in the form of aid and assistance; of which Musharraf has been one of the number one beneficiaries in the past….


Pakistan Welcomes Obama’s ‘New Way’ with Muslim World

January 21, 2009

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday welcomed a pledge from US President Barack Obama to seek a new approach with the Muslim world after eight turbulent years at the White House.

Zardari, in office four months, said the people of Pakistan welcomed Obama’s emphasis on seeking a “new way forward” with the Muslim world “based on mutual interest and mutual respect“, said a statement from the presidency.

Pakistan became a key US ally after the 9/11 attacks on the United States when it publicly renounced support for the fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan, but still stands accused of backing extremists.


“Renewal by the US president of commitment to high ideals and values would raise hope for a better future for the peoples of the world,” the statement quoted Zardari as saying.

“The United States undoubtedly carries an important responsibility in charting, along with other members of the international community, new perspectives for peace, progress and prosperity in the 21st century,” it said.

Under George W. Bush, cash-strapped Pakistan depended on billions of dollars of security and development aid.

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Pakistan torn over how to handle Taliban: experts

January 14, 2009

After years allowing Taliban militants to operate in the rugged tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan is now torn over how to respond to US calls for decisive action against extremists.

by Rana Jawad, AFP

Pakistani troops return to base after completing a mission against ... 
Pakistani troops return to base after completing a mission against militants in Jamrud, the gateway to Khyber Pass which links Pakistan to Afghanistan, on January 2. After years allowing Taliban militants to operate in the rugged tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan is now torn over how to respond to US calls for decisive action against extremists.(AFP/File/Tariq Mahmood)

Islamabad is under intense pressure from Washington, other western nations and Kabul to eliminate Taliban and Al-Qaeda havens in the tribal belt, from where fighters are said to stage attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan.

But experts say Pakistan’s desire to please the United States, a vital political and military ally, has run up against its own strategic interests in the region and its loyalty to Pashtuns, the predominant ethnicity among the Taliban.

“Pakistan’s Taliban policy has suffered from indecisiveness, inconsistency and ambiguity,” political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.

“Pakistan’s choices will become tougher in the future because its efforts to control the Taliban do not enjoy support throughout society. A good number of ordinary people see India as more of a threat than the Taliban.”

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Pakistan state not linked to Mumbai attack: Britain

January 13, 2009

Britain’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that he believed the Pakistan state did not direct the Mumbai attacks, contradicting accusations from the Indian government that state agencies were involved.

“I have said publicly that I do not believe that the attacks were directed by the Pakistani state and I think it’s important to restate that,” David Miliband told a news conference.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last week the Mumbai attacks must have had support from some of Pakistan‘s official agencies. Islamabad has denied this, blaming the raid on “non-state actors.”

By Krittivas Mukherjee, Reuters

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee (L) shares a light ... 
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee (L) shares a light moment with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in New Delhi on January 13. Miliband said on Tuesday the Pakistan state had not directed the attacks on Mumbai, but urged Islamabad to fulfill its promise to root out Islamic militant groups.(AFP/Prakash Singh)

India has provided Pakistan data from satellite phones used by the attackers and what it describes as the confession of a surviving gunman, part of a dossier of evidence.

Miliband’s statement highlighted differences between India and some Western allies. While India believes that agencies like Pakistan’s military spy agency were involved, diplomats have hinted there is not enough evidence to show this.

Miliband said it was clear the attacks originated from Pakistan, and Islamabad had to crack down on the militants operating on its soil, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which has been blamed for the Mumbai attacks.

“We are absolutely clear about the origin of the terrorist attack, and the responsibility that exists in Pakistan to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Miliband said.

“What is relevant is the approach of the Pakistani state to the LeT organization and the way the Pakistani state takes on the menace of the LeT organization,” he added.

Pakistanis Are Armed, Dangerous

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Pakistan Fires Top Security Official, Indicating Dishonesty on Mumbai

January 8, 2009

Pakistan’s security agencies had recommended confirming the surviving Mumbai gunman was Pakistani, the country’s former national security adviser said Thursday, adding he was sacked because the prime minister was out of the loop.

India had said for weeks the captured gunman, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, was Pakistani. Pakistan had stonewalled, saying his name was not on a national database and it was investigating.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani fired National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani Wednesday, shortly after he and other officials confirmed to reporters that Kasab was Pakistani.

Newspapers in India interpreted his dismissal as punishment for revealing the truth, while Pakistani media speculated it showed a split in power circles in Islamabad.

Durrani said authorities, including security agencies, had already decided to confirm the gunman was Pakistani.

“It had been decided yesterday that we would tell the world that he is a Pakistani because hiding that makes no sense,” Durrani told Reuters in a telephone interview.

By Robert Birsel, Reuters

“The security agencies recommended it,” he said.

India blames Pakistan militants for the strikes in November by 10 gunmen that killed 179 people and have revived tension between two nations that have fought three wars since 1947.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped up a war of words Tuesday, saying for the first time the assault “must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan.”

Pakistan has denied any involvement by state agencies.

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